Louise Bourgeois, Spider, 1997. Steel, tapestry, wood, glass, fabric, rubber, silver, gold and bone.
Louise Bourgeois: The Eternal Thread is the first large-scale museum exhibition in China of work by French-American artist Louise Bourgeois. Widely regarded as one of the most important artists of the 20th and 21st centuries, Bourgeois is renowned for creating a body of work that fuses psychological depth with high formal invention. The show offers a focussed survey of major works from the artist’s entire career, including Personage sculptures from the late 1940s, Cell installations from the 1990s, the fabric works of her final decade, and the monumental spider sculpture Maman.
The Eternal Thread allows for multiple readings of Bourgeois’s work, which are symbolically linked by the unifying motif of the uncut thread that runs throughout her oeuvre. In her early drawings, the thread often symbolizes hair and the skein of time. Her hanging sculptures exist in a permanent state of ambivalence and doubt: secure yet vulnerable, fixed yet susceptible to turn and change, they are suspended from a single point and literally hang by a thread.
For Bourgeois, sewing, stitching, and joining are symbolic actions that enact her wish for reconciliation and reparation, even as they ward off her lifelong fear of separation and abandonment. Engraver, painter, sculptor, and installation artist, Bourgeois worked across different media throughout her life, and yet her output is rooted in a consistent set of emotional themes. Indeed, the eternal thread may be read as the realm of the unconscious, timeless and eternal, from which the multifarious and at times contradictory forms of her art emerge.
(Photo courtesy of Maximilian Geuter.)